After playing an integral role in the detection of the first gravitational wave, The University of Western Australia’s Professor David Blair has been recognised by his peers with election to the Australian Academy of Science.
Professor Blair joins 535 other esteemed scientists in the Academy’s Fellowship for tireless work into the discovery of gravitational waves, a theory predicted by Einstein over a century ago.
Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space-time, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe billions of years ago.
Professor Blair led a UWA team of researchers to develop methods for controlling instabilities in the high-powered lasers used at the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a critical contribution to the discovery of the first gravitational wave in September 2015.
Professor Blair has established other areas of precision measurement science during his career. He pioneered ‘microwave cavity electro-mechanics’ as well as the use of ‘whispering gallery modes in sapphire’ (for the creation of exceptionally low noise clocks and oscillators).
Professor Blair also led the creation of the Australian International Gravitational Research Centre in Gingin, Western Australia, which contributed to the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and helped enable the detection of gravitational waves.
Professor Blair said it was an honour to be elected to the Academy of Science.
“It will be a wonderful opportunity to interact with so many distinguished colleagues. I’m incredibly grateful to those who elected me,” Professor Blair said.
“It is hard to overstate the significance of the discovery of gravity waves. It is our first direct contact with our first stellar ancestors and our first direct view of a place in the universe where matter loses all its identity and time comes to an end.”
“For 40 years we’ve been searching for gravitational waves and I’m now inspired by the opportunities to discover a myriad of things by listening to the universe rather than seeing.”
Professor Blair is also campaigning to modernise the current school curriculum so students learn about Einsteinian physics, rather than outdated Newtonian physics.
“We can improve public understanding of science if we modernise the school curriculum. When we talk about curved space and warped time people think it’s really weird because they didn’t get used to these ideas as children. If we introduce a new modern language for understanding the universe people will understand science is more relevant than they realised,” Professor Blair said.
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716